Childhood obesity is not just to do with eating and exercise

Washington, June 1: University of Illinois scientists have revealed that many factors including genetic predisposition, family, community, country, culture, how much TV a child watches and others contribute to childhood obesity.

So, Illinois scientists from a variety of disciplines have teamed up to examine these diverse factors as individual researchers have found that the problem is too complicated for any of them to tackle alone.

“Our Strong Kids team members are looking at such diverse factors as genetic predisposition, the effect of breastfeeding, how much TV a child watches, and the neighborhood he lives in, among many others,” said Kristen Harrison of the U of I’s Division of Nutritional Sciences.

“It seems like the answer should be simple, just eat less and exercise more, but when you look at the reasons that kids overeat and burn fewer calories, it turns out there are a lot of them,” he said.

Harrison and other Strong Kids team members have collected and analyzed two generations of data on approximately 400 families, and they are beginning a third wave of data collection.

Individual studies, including communication professor Harrison’s own examination of preschoolers’ television viewing and eating habits, are ongoing.

The team’s Six Cs model will examine the problem of childhood obesity from the following angles: cell, child, clan (or family), community, country and culture.

“From 30 to 40 percent of the population has a variety of genetic markers that puts them at greater risk for obesity,” said professor of nutrition Margarita Teran-Garcia, who is approaching the problem at the cellular level.

Child development professor Kelly Bost is looking at the quality of parent-child attachment.

“There’s evidence that insecure attachment predicts more TV exposure, more consumption of unhealthful foods, and other factors leading to greater obesity,” she said.

Another kinesiology and community health professor, Diana Grigsby-Toussaint, is geomapping retail environments in the neighborhoods where the participating families live, looking in detail at what foods are available there.

A paper detailing their approach appeared in a recent issue of Child Development Perspectives. (ANI)